Picasso showed his truly exceptional talent from a very young age. His first word was lapis (Spanish for pencil) and he learned to draw before he could talk. He was the only son in the family and very good-looking, so he was thoroughly spoilt. He hated school and often refused to go unless his doting parents allowed him to take one of his father’s pet pigeons with him!
Apart from pigeons, his great love was art, and when in 1891 his father, who was an amateur artist, got a job as a drawing teacher at a college, Pablo went with him to the college. He often watched his father paint and sometimes was allowed to help. One evening his father was painting a picture of their pigeons when he had to leave the room. He returned to find that Pablo had completed the picture, and it was so amazingly beautiful and lifelike that he gave his son his own palette and brushes and never painted again. Pablo was just 13.
From then onwards there was no stopping him. Many people realized that he was a genius but he disappointed those who wanted him to become a traditional painter. He was always breaking the rules of artistic tradition and shocked the public with his strange and powerful pictures. He is probably best known for his ‘Cubist’ pictures, which used only simple geometric shapes. His paintings of people were often made up of triangles and squares with their features in the wrong place. His work changed our ideas about art, and to millions of people modern art means the work of Picasso. Guernica, which he painted in 1937, records the bombing of that little Basque town during the Spanish Civil War, and is undisputedly one of the masterpieces of modern painting.
Picasso created over 6,000 paintings, drawings and sculptures. Today a ‘Picasso’ costs several million pounds. Once, when the French Minister of Culture was visiting Picasso, the artist accidentally spilt some paint on the Minister’s trousers. Picasso apologized and wanted to pay for them to be cleaned, but the Minister said, ‘Non! Please, Monsieur Picasso, just sign my trousers!’
Picasso died of heart failure during an attack of influenza in 1973.